Focusing Your Grasstops Outreach To Influence Your Member

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This training provides some ideas to start the process of identifying and recruiting allies in our communities. Some of the best tools for convincing friends their voices make a difference and walks us through how to start inventorying your group and potential allies who can support CCL's efforts at the national level.

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/topics/engaging-influencers
TOC and Guide Section
 
Grassroots vs. Grasstops

This training’s focus is on building essential grasstops connections. To help us understand what CCL means when we use the term “Grasstops” here’s a quick comparison between what separates grassroots with grasstops:

  • Limited connections vs. Many possible connections
  • Small economic footprint vs. Major employer, large association, faith, business, or city leader, etc.
  • Individual focus vs. Larger footprint in community
Researching Your Member

We know your time is precious.

Doing research ahead of time will help your team:

  • Find ways to connect with your member
  • Highlight voices that will be most persuasive
  • Create a more methodical approach to balance your priorities

These tools will help you balance knowing what to prioritize in terms of where you already have active leads with your group’s connections and who may be most strategic to reach out to in order to influence your member. When beginning doing research on your member of Congress look in three key areas:

  • Legislative Profile: Find out about your member’s stance on party issues, what leadership they have in the party, what committees they serve on, what causes or policies they champion, etc.
  • Personal Profile: Find out about your member’s background, what their religious beliefs are what schools/college(s) they attended, what their profession was ahead of Congress, what clubs and interests they still participate in, etc.
    • For your member’s previous positions held, who did they work with?
    • What Boards do they sit on? Can you influence other members of that board to help move them? 
    • Do you or your chapter have connections to family or friends that also attended that school/university? Alumni orgs?
    • What connections does your group have to the civic or religious organizations your member belongs to?
  • Relationship Profile: Find out about the background behind your member’s key staff, family/spouse/relatives, donors, peers in Congress and community connections back home in district.
    • Which other elected officials do they look up to or are friendly with in their party and across the aisle?
    • Who gives them endorsements during the campaign? Those are good groups to approach because the Member will want them to re-endorse next election cycle
Helpful Tools
A few resources on CCL Community:

Outside CCL’s Resources: 

  • Your member’s own website (last_name.house.gov or last_name.senate.gov)
  • Govtrack.us, Congress.gov, and Open Secrets
  • Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Campaign pages
  • Visiting and seeing what’s displayed in your member’s offices (In-District & DC)
Research Local Impacts

Begin by seeing who is already being tracked in CCL’s Grasstops Engagement Tracker for your district.

  • Who are the biggest employers in your district? How will they be impacted by climate change? 
  • What are the unique impacts in your district/state? 
    • Who are some unusual voices that may be impacted that could speak? (skiing examples, fishing, farming, etc.)
  • What industries are most likely to be impacted down the line? 
    • Begin to outreach to connect, learn from them, and highlight the impacts your community faces (Local Impacts Resources).
Mapping Your Member’s Connections
  • Conduct a “relationship inventory” for your chapter. 
    • Who do members in your chapter know and possibly have connections to in Congress?
    • Use the research process we highlighted above from your member’s background to find possible connection points in your community.
  • Develop a quick survey for volunteers in your group
    • Ask them questions like: have you ever met our member of Congress (or met other members?)
    • Do they have connections in the second, third or fourth degree? (i.e. do their daughters go to the same school, do they know someone else that attends their local church, does an old colleague of their share the same work background?)
    • Your chapter might have connection(s) you don’t even know until you ask!
  • Use a system for organizing what you collect
    • Whatever works for you, it’s important to have a system to capture what you find.
    • Take notes on your volunteers’ quality of relationships, how trusted they might be by the legislator, what kinds of skills they have, what other connections they have themselves and how much these connections might be willing to do.
Bring Your Grasstops Message To Your Member

Here are a variety of options to consider pending what fits best for your circumstances. 

  • Seek their endorsement 
    • This is a good option, but not the best. Endorsing the bill is preferable to supporting carbon pricing in general, but supporting carbon pricing generally is also a helpful endorsement if if that’s as far as your contact with a business, organization, or individual is willing to go.
  • If they are willing to go further, ask them to personally put in a phone call to your member
    • While harder to determine if they’ve followed through, this is a great ask for someone who is supportive or generally supportive. If they can’t support the Energy Innovation Act explicitly, encourage them to still call and share their support for carbon pricing policy such as the Energy Innovation Act as one option.
  • Raising the bar: Asking them to join your team and meet with your member 
    • This is the best way to leverage grass tops leaders. Having community leaders go with your team to meet with your member is the most powerful thing you can do. Aim for a face to face meeting, but getting a staff meeting is still impactful.  Follow similar advice to the messaging on their support above. 
    • Help train them to be ready to share their story. Members aren’t won over by facts alone, the importance of stories in the art of relationship building and persuasion can’t be overstated.
  • Bringing a sign-on letter to your meeting, signed by a group of local influencers (i.e. brewers, bankers, outdoor industries, etc.). 
    • This is a good approach if it’s a group of individuals your member can relate to or see the influence from the amount of them that signed on, especially if it’s focused in their district (i.e. collecting 100 brewers, or 1,000 veterans signatures, etc.) 

Note: Beware of bringing a leader that may be a powerful influencer in the district, but who will end up being partisan in their exchange. This kind of interaction can backfire and is best if avoided (example of bring only local Democrat commissioners for a meeting with your Republican Congresswoman).

Length
Press play to start the video (46m 06s)
https://vimeo.com/showcase/6097945
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda (from beginning)

Who Are Grasstops & Why Care? (2:05)

How to Focus Your Research (4:14)

Starting & Using An Organizer (9:27)

Connecting With Impacted Industries (18:48)

Lessons From the Hill (23:33)

Bringing The Grassroots Voice to Your Member (29:17)

Case Study: NC Asheville's Story (37:58)
Instructor(s)
  • Stephanie Doyle
  • Ben Pendergrass
  • Steffi Rausch
  • Don Addu
Downloads
Audio length
Press play to start the audio (46m 06s)
Audio embed code
Audio Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda (from beginning)

Who Are Grasstops & Why Care? (2:05)

How to Focus Your Research (4:14)

Starting & Using An Organizer (9:27)

Connecting With Impacted Industries (18:48)

Lessons From the Hill (23:33)

Bringing The Grassroots Voice to Your Member (29:17)

Case Study: NC Asheville's Story (37:58)
Instructor(s)
  • Stephanie Doyle
  • Ben Pendergrass
  • Steffi Rausch
  • Don Addu
Discussion Topic
To Print
Instructions for printing this page on Community.
Category
Training
Topics
Engaging Influencers
Format
Audio / Video, Presentation
File Type
Google Slides, PowerPoint (.pptx), Spreadsheet
Training Resources
The resources above are specific to this training, see all resources associated with Grasstops Engagement.